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Debunking the Myths About the Drawdown of Lake Martin

Martin Dam

On October 15th, 2022, the drawdown on Lake Martin will begin.  The “plug” will be pulled, and Lake Martin will start to lower.  It’s kind of like when you pull the plug in a bathtub and the water level starts to decrease-but this bathtub is a 40,000 acre natural wonderland.  The locals are used to this happening every year, but for our friends that are newer to the lake, you may have some preconceived notions about the drawdown, or just not understand it at all.  No worries-we are going to set the record straight on a few myths related to the drawdown!  

 

Myth:  There is an actual plug that controls the water level.

FALSE  While that would be pretty cool, this is really all controlled at an Alabama Power facility in Birmingham.  

 

Myth:  There is an actual holiday called Plug Day though, right?

TRUE   While it may not have been deemed a national holiday (yet), Plug Day is certainly a fun day that we created around here to celebrate each spring when the imaginary plug goes back in the lake.  

 

Myth:  The lake is lowered all the way during the winter, and there is no water once it has all been drained.

FALSE  The water level is only lowered 7-10 feet each winter.   Alabama Power’s current license says they  have to keep Lake Martin’s water at very specific levels-491 mean sea level feet in the Summer and 484 mean sea level feet in the Winter.  The Summer levels and Winter levels are commonly referred to as Summer Pool and Winter Pool.  Every six years, Alabama Power is required to lower the winter operating water level 3 feet below the normal level of 484 mean sea level feet.

 

Myth:  The lake is not usable after it reaches winter pool level.

FALSE  Many people continue to enjoy the lake while the water level is lower.  You can get your boat in the water at the ramps at Wind Creek State Park, and can even still rent a boat there all year long.  

 

Myth:  I need to take more caution when boating once the water level starts to go down.

TRUE  While it is still safe to be out on the water, it is important to be aware of stumps and shoals that will then be closer to the surface.  Pay attention to the buoys that are on the lake and follow rules for safe boating (as you should be doing all year anyway.)

 

Myth:  Fishing is awesome on Lake Martin once the water level decreases.

TRUE   This one is very true.  Cooler water and lower water levels make the fish turn on.  Many tournaments visit Lake Martin during the winter while the water level is lower.  Recreational anglers flock to the lake as well, and our guides at Alex City Guide Service tell us winter is the time to catch the most fish, and spring usually brings the biggest.  

 

Myth:  There’s some cool things to see once the water level starts dropping. 

TRUE   Once the water level starts dropping, it is a great time to go looking for rocks, driftwood, and other treasures that were previously underwater.  The Island Hop Trail at Smith Mountain is one of the coolest things to see, as there are completely new hiking trails that you can hike that are only accessible while the water level is down.  During the summer, you have to swim between the islands. 

 

Myth:  When the water level is down, it is a great time to do work on my dock. 

TRUE  Absolutely!  Our friends at Lake Martin Dock Company tell us that this is by far the easiest time to get maintenance done on your structures.  

 

Myth:  If I am getting work done on my own dock, I don’t need a permit.

FALSE  All shoreline related work on Lake Martin requires a temporary construction permit from the Alabama Power Shoreline Management Office. This includes the construction and maintenance of non-habitable structures, as well as other ground-disturbing activity, on or near the shoreline of the lake, such as and similar to: piers, landings, boat docks, boathouses, boat ramps, gazebos, bank stabilization, dredging, landscape plantings, and re-grading. You must contact the local Alabama Power Company Shoreline Management Office prior to beginning any construction on or within Project Lands and/or waters. A written permit must be obtained from Alabama Power Company before any construction begins. Verbal approval is not sufficient. For more information on Alabama Power permitting click here or call 256.825.0053. In addition Alabama Power may require written approval from your subdivision/development for the work to be performed. Please ask your AL Power representative if approvals are required for your property.

I hope this helps give you a little more information about the facts around the drawdown on Lake Martin. There is still water, there is still fun, and there are still LOTS of fish! And don’t forget, you can always check the latest lake level HERE anytime.

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